This article explains how you can become faster, more efficient, and potentially even reduce RSI by using your keyboard more often to do more of the tasks that you normally think only the mouse can do. When testing this article on colleagues, I have yet to find a single person who hasn't learnt at least something new, even 15 year IT veterans! Keyboard Short Cut - Copy, Cut and Paste: The most common keyboard short cuts used are Copy CTRL+C, and Paste CTRL+V which are used by selecting (or highlighting) text, pressing CTRL+C to Copy this text to the clip board (a Windows temporary storage area that can only remember 1 thing: always the last thing Copied) and then Pasting this text to another Text Box using CTRL+V. Instead of copying however, the original text can be removed using Cut: CTRL+X. This deletes the original text but also copies it to the clip board so it can Pasted somewhere else.
Additionally, highlighting text with the keyboard can be done using the SHIFT key. Hold down SHIFT and use with different combinations of ARROW keys, CTRL key and END and HOME keys. Here are some possible combinations to try: SHIFT+ARROW; SHIFT+CTRL+ARROW; SHIFT+END; SHIFT+HOME; SHIFT+CTRL+END; SHIFT+CTRL+HOME, SHIFT+CTRL+PAGEUP AND SHIFT+CTRL+PAGEDOWN.
Try them out, they all make highlighting blocks of text much faster. Keyboard Short Cut - Switching Between Applications: ALT+TAB: Use this keyboard shortcut (or keyboard combination) to change which of the open applications is the one that's active at the moment. A small window will appear with small icons representing all the applications currently running. Whilst keeping ALT pressed with your left thumb, TAB can be pressed multiple times to cycle along the list to the application required. It is similar to using the mouse and clicking an application in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. Keyboard Short Cut - Tabbing Through Window Controls: TAB: Looking at an application window (or form if you prefer), there are many controls that can be accessed, including Text Boxes (sometimes called "fields" are the usually white areas where text can be typed in), Command Buttons, Tick Boxes, and List Boxes.
Normally the mouse would be used to click on a control, however pressing the TAB key cycles through all the accessible controls on the form in what's called the Tab Order, just like clicking each one in turn. This method can be used to activate all the controls on the form, adding text or making selections as appropriate. Note that sometimes the Tab Order can be unintuitive. SHIFT+TAB activates controls in reverse of the normal Tab Order, useful if you Tab once too often. CTRL+TAB can be used in the special case where a windows form has a sub-section with tabs at the top to click. Use CTRL+TAB to move to the right between the tabbed sub-forms, and CTRL+SHIFT+TAB to go left up the tab list.
Keyboard Short Cut - Clicking Command Buttons: Command Buttons are the grey rectangles clicked to make things happen. ENTER (or RETURN if you prefer) is the equivalent of clicking a Command Button once it has been Tabbed to and activated. Or indeed the SPACE bar can be used instead.
SHIFT+??? Additionally many command buttons have specific keyboard short cuts that have the effect of clicking them without the need to Tab to them. Some command buttons have a letter underlined, like the Cancel button often has the "C" underlined. However the ESC (Escape) key is often also tied to a Cancel button directly. Cancelling a pop up window for example can often be quickly done using ESC. Pressing SHIFT+C will often have the effect of clicking a Cancel button. Where SHIFT is the keyboard key with the thick UP arrow that normally gives Capital letters when typing.
Note that the underlined letter is not always the first letter. Keyboard Short Cut - Toggling Tick Boxes: Tick Boxes are small white squares with a tick or cross that can be toggled on or off. SPACE is the equivalent of clicking a Tick Box once it has been TABed to and is the active control.
Keyboard Short Cut - Selecting Radio Buttons: Radio Buttons - like circular tick boxes, except only 1 can be selected in the group. ARROW keys are used to move the selected option in a list of Radio Buttons, once this control is the active control. Up and Down Arrows can be used, or Left and Right as preferred. Keyboard Short Cut - Selecting Items in List Boxes: List Boxes (sometimes called "Drop Down List Boxes") drop down a list of items when the down triangle is clicked from which a pre-existing value in the list can be selected. ARROW keys are again used here to move the selection.
Up and Down Arrows can be used, or Left and Right. However this only moves the selection without actually showing the list. ALT+ARROW will drop down the list, and is the equivalent of clicking the down arrow on the right hand side of the control. Only Up and Down arrows work here to show the list.
Another useful keyboard feature of List Boxes is quickly jumping to an item by typing the first letter of the item being sought. E.g. if the List Box contains the list: Blue, Green, Pink, Purple, Red, Yellow; and the desired selection is Yellow, instead of pressing the DOWN Arrow 5 times, simply pressing the "Y" key will select Yellow immediately.
Pressing "P" will select Pink, and pressing "P" for a second time will start moving down the list of P's, hence selecting Purple in our example. Keyboard Short Cut - Menu Item Short Cuts: CTRL+??? Copy and Paste are examples of Menu shortcuts. Menus are the drop down options in the grey Toolbar at the top of almost all Windows Applications, normally starting with "File". Looking in the Edit menu of a text editor like Word shows the Cut, Copy and Paste commands with their shortcuts (CTRL+X, CTRL+C, CTRL+V) listed next to them. Take a look around the menus as many useful commands are shown with their short cut keys.
Some common ones are listed here: Open - CTRL+O Print - CTRL+P Save - CTRL+S Save As - F12, (Oddly this is not always shown, Microsoft Word for example doesn't list it, but it works) Find - CTRL+F Replace - CTRL+H or CTRL+R depending on application Undo - CTRL+Z Redo - CTRL+Y Bold - CTRL+B Italic - CTRL+I Underline - CTRL+U Be careful however as not all applications have the same shortcuts, and worse sometimes applications use the same shortcut keys for different things. For example, most applications use CTRL+F for Find, most that is except Microsoft Outlook which uses CTRL+F for "Forward email" and instead uses F4 for Find. Keyboard Short Cut - Navigating The Toolbar Menus: ALT+??? As Command Buttons can have specific shortcut keys used with SHIFT and shown as an underlined letter, so too do the Menu's on the Toolbar also have short cut's to access them directly with out clicking. These are accessed not with SHIFT but with ALT.
The first 3 menus at the top of Word for example are: File, Edit and View, but as with Command Buttons it's not always the first letter, for example Format. So to access the Format menu, use ALT+O. Once a menu is being displayed, the ARROW keys can be used to navigate around the various menus using Up, Down, Left and Right arrows. Notice that often the menu items also have underlined letters (sometimes as well as their listed CTRL+??? shortcuts). Now however, the ALT is no longer required as the "Menu mode" is already active.
So opening the Tools menu of Word by pressing ALT+T, shows that "Word Count" has an underlined "W". Now pressing W now will perform a word count on your document. This is a quick way of accessing functions that don't have a CTRL+??? shortcut, without the mouse.
Further Tips: If your keyboard is blessed with a Windows Key (normally between CTRL and ALT and has a windows logo on) there are extra shortcuts available, the most useful ones are Minimise all windows and shows the Desktop - WINDOWS KEY+M Launch the Windows Explorer Application - WINDOWS KEY+E It can take a little time to get used to some of the shortcut combinations, especially working out when to use CTRL, SHIFT or ALT. Perseverance however will result in less reliance on the mouse and a faster, more efficient working experience. And dare it be said: a more enjoyable one?.
Sophie White is one of the Online Marketing Consultants at Intrinsic Marketing - Getting Better ROI for your Website.